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Since 1975, buyers from mail and phone-based sellers have been entitled to expect shipment of their orders within any advertised time frame, or 30 days if no specific promise is made, according to the FTC's "Mail or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule" issued that year.
A retailer that couldn't meet that expectation was required to obtain the buyer's consent to a shipping delay or refund payment for the undelivered merchandise.
That rule now has been updated – not only to explicitly include online retailers, but also to recognize modern forms of payment, Jock Chung, an attorney with the FTC, said.
While the old rule covered cash, check, money order and credit card payments, it "left open the question of how to make refunds for debit cards, gift cards and other payment methods," Chung explained. "So we defined some of the requirements for those different payment methods."
The changes will become effective Dec. 8 as part of the newly renamed "Mail, Internet, or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule."
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